Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Full Committee hearing entitled, "The Clean Air Act and Public Health."
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 10:00 am
Madam Chairwoman, I appreciate your having today's hearing. This is the first time this session we've had Administrator Jackson here to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) air quality regulations. I'm glad you're here. I'd also like to thank the witnesses on our second panel. Cathy Woollums, I'm anxious to hear how EPA's regulations are affecting your rate payers. Dr. Brenner, I look forward to learning more about how energy price increases and unemployment affect public health. I think your testimony will be particularly insightful in light of the sweeping job losses we expect from EPA's rules.
Over the past two years, the Obama EPA has moved forward with an unprecedented number of rules that will have enormous consequences for families, businesses, and the nation's fiscal well-being. Take for example, EPA's new greenhouse gas (GHG) cap and trade regulations. Administrator Jackson, you have admitted that regulating GHGs in the U.S. will have no impact on global GHG concentrations, yet your rules will come at an estimated cost of $300 to $400 billion annually. The Agency's voluntary reconsideration of the national ambient air quality standards for ground-level ozone - a decision based on outdated data that could lead to significant economic constraints on the country - is an another Agency action of dubious merit. EPA projects the cost of this rule in the order of $90 billion. Meanwhile, the Agency is planning to tighten the standards again in just two years.
The Obama EPA is aggressively moving forward to regulate nearly all aspects of American life - it now has regulations covering dust on farms and puddles of water along the side of road. And it is businesses and working families who will pay the price.
Today we have a witness from the electric power industry with us, so let's focus on the regulations affecting her business for a minute. Just last week, in response to EPA's rules, American Electric Power (AEP) announced they would be forced to close nearly 6,000 Megawatts of low cost (coal) power generation. As a consequence, AEP estimates nearly 600 power plant workers will lose their jobs, totaling nearly $40 million in annual wages. These are good paying jobs in rural areas of Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Texas. These jobs won't easily be replaced.
Of course, the effects to the communities will be far greater than these direct job losses alone, as electricity prices increase and nearby businesses suffer in the wake of plant closures. A recent report by National Economic Research Associates (NERA) anticipates this will be replicated across the country, with an estimated 48 Gigawatts in plant closures. And this is from just two of EPA's rules. That's the AEP tragedy eight times over. And before this analysis is criticized, let me say that it is consistent with multiple projections, including that of Obama's Department of Energy, which estimates that plant closures could be as high as 70 Gigawatts. NERA goes on to predict that these two rules - the "Utility MACT" and the "Transport Rule" - will cause electricity prices to increase by as much as 23 percent. By 2020, 1.4 million jobs could be lost.
As I said at last week's hearing, we all have an interest in dealing with real pollution concerns and protecting public health. But we also know that President Obama has a cap and trade agenda that's specifically designed to raise energy prices by forcing coal and oil out of the market. He couldn't get it passed the Senate, so now he has the EPA doing it for him. This is something that no more than one-third of the U.S. Senate would vote for.
Today, the Clean Air Act is being implemented in a way that bears no resemblance to what Congress intended. Congress didn't give EPA the authority to set mandates that can't be achieved. Congress didn't give EPA the authority to pursue an agenda that hurts the very people it's supposedly trying to protect. And we all know that Congress didn't give EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gasses. But here we are.
We hear a lot about the Clean Air Act these days. And I'll be the first to admit that industry and states have done a great job of cleaning up the air over the past 40 years. But the Clean Air Act is in dire need of modernization. It needs to be updated to undo years of bureaucratic overreach and messy court rulings; updated to meet the pollution challenges of today. And yes, updated to stop politicians from using it to pursue a reckless political agenda that hurts working families.